I cannot believe how quickly this summer flew by. I remember my first day walking into the office unsure of myself, and what would come of the summer. Right away the advocates were extremely friendly and excited to work with me. Ending the summer with them taking me out to lunch showed me just how far I had come since that first day. I learned so much about the role of not only the advocates, but also of everybody else in the office. I went into the summer hoping to learn more about the criminal justice system and whether or not I wanted to pursue a professional career in law. Through restitution work and monitoring court proceedings I learned an immense amount about how the criminal justice system worked. I now understand the roles of the prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victim’s advocates. My supervisor would ask me to watch the court proceedings to see what the sentence was for certain defendants. By taking notes I learned about the court procedure and the sentencing that might follow certain charges. Although, there might have been a slight pattern, I mostly learned that each case is different and could result in a different outcome.
I learned a lot from this internship, but know there is much more to learn about the legal system. I have never taken any classes before on this subject, but plan on taking as many legal courses as I can in my last year at Brandeis. This internship has also solidified my plan to go to law school in a few years. Through immersion of the criminal system, I also discovered that I do not particularly like the criminal system and much prefer civil court. I was able to observe family court once a week and felt as though that is where I would love to be able to help. Right after college, I would love to work in a family law practice, and learn more about civil law and really be able to compare that with what I learned this past summer.
I learned a lot about the criminal system as well as myself and I would suggest this experience to any other student who wants to learn more about the victims advocate role within the criminal justice system or the legal system in general. I was unsure about what I wanted to pursue for my professional career, but this summer taught me a lot about the daily work in this field. The Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office holds some of the friendliest people and they are always eager for interns. I learned the most from this internship by always putting myself out there and willing to help in any way that I could. I also asked the advocates questions about their work and the attorneys in the office were also eager to answer any questions I might have had. Another amazing aspect to this internship was the accessibility to the courtrooms. Any student interested in criminal law should pursue an internship at a states attorney’s office because they will learn so much about the criminal process. As long as questions are asked and initiatives are taken to observe interesting proceedings, than students interested in this type of internship will gain the most out of this experience. (State’s Attorney’s Offices in Vermont)
Every day I discover I learned more and more from this internship. I learned a great deal about social justice and saw first hand its use within the criminal justice system. My concept of social justice was certainly challenged through observing the different sentences that criminals would receive. Defendants did not all go straight to jail or have to pay a large fine. Some defendants left the court with only community service and counseling. In some cases this felt adequate, but others where it was a repeated offense or one that greatly affected a victim, it felt unfair. Although the court system challenged social justice in a way, I also discovered that there are many different avenues to fight for social justice. These avenues allow for many different people to make changes at all levels, ranging from personal to global. When I observed family court, I met a woman who worked at a domestic violence organization and fought for social justice at a more personal level with the victims. (Domestic Violence Organization). This discovery has inspired me to fight for social justice at this level and work with women who need support of all kinds. Social justice is certainly something that I want to fight for and I know that whichever professional path I end up taking, it will follow one of social justice.
These past four weeks have really flown by! My responsibilities at the States Attorney’s Office have grown and I feel much more comfortable in the office. When I walk into the office every morning, I now feel prepared to handle any task that comes my way. Before I began my internship, one of my main goals was to learn more about the judicial system. That included better understanding the court processes, the inner workings of the states attorney’s office, and the specific role of the victims advocate. I feel that I have already learned so much about each of those things and I hope to learn even more.
While monitoring court proceedings I feel that I understand more and more of what goes on. I now understand the difference between a status conference and a jury draw status conference. I have discovered which court proceedings interest me to watch and which are monotonous. Even though I prefer certain court proceedings to others, one of my responsibilities is to watch whichever one my supervisor needs me to and then I report back to him on the outcome. This has taught me to pay attention and understand the process and outcome. I have also learned a lot from the attorneys who have encouraged questions and taught me a lot about the work they do. I was even able to sit with one of the attorneys during one court proceeding.
I also better understand the role of the victim’s advocates because that is the department I specifically work with. One of my main responsibilities is to assist with restitution paperwork, which I now feel very comfortable doing. My supervisor will hand me an assorted pile of papers knowing that I understand what to do with them. I now have enough experience to use the database in a way to find the appropriate paperwork, print it, and then file it.
My supervisor actually calls me his “chief-of-staff”! Every time he says that, I feel proud of my work and that I am really helping him. I enjoy being able to walk into his office, with him knowing that I am capable of doing anything that he hands me. His confidence in me has shown that I have learned a lot. I feel more confident in my work for him and my overall ability to work in the office.
Confidence is just one skill that has grown since my internship began. I also feel more competent with computer databases and promptly being able to figure out how it works. After using a few different types of databases at this internship I feel confident in my ability to quickly learn and adapt to new programs. I know that is a skill that I can take with me to future jobs and will help me feel comfortable with using any program thrown my way.
My knowledge of the judicial system has also certainly grown, which is something that will benefit me in both academics and with my future career. I feel as though I understand the difference between civil court and criminal court, which is something I never fully understood before . I am currently working more with the criminal court, but was able to observe some family court proceedings. Through this internship and the opportunities given to me, I have learned that I enjoy family court and civil court much more than criminal court. I have greater interests in the cases that appear in civil court and the attorney-client relationships that ensue. This current internship has shed light onto the different courts and truly helped me better understand what I am interested in for the future.
This summer I am interning at the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office in Burlington, VT. The office is already exciting with T.J Donovan, the state’s attorney, running to be the new Attorney General in Vermont. It is an exciting time to be in this office and hear first hand how the campaign is coming along. Donovan and the other attorneys work hard to represent the state in a variety of criminal cases. Within the office is also a victims advocate department, which is where I am specifically interning. This department consists of three advocates who work closely with the victims. The advocates help the victims throughout the entire court process, by helping them better understand the process and by providing any support they may need. One major aspect that the advocates help with is compensation, usually in the form of money through restitution. The advocates deal with the paperwork throughout this process and I have been assisting them with it. The advocates ultimate goal is to support the victims while ensuring that they understand the case process.
I already feel immersed in the office and have been assisting the advocates any way necessary. My first week has been kind of slow because of judicial college week, meaning that all of the judges in the state of Vermont had to go to trainings all week. Although it was a “slow” week in court, victims still showed up in the office and were in need of assistance. I worked closely with one of the advocates who gave me many tasks and answered any questions that I had. We discussed that throughout the rest of the summer I will be monitoring court proceedings, helping with restitution claims, and assisting with keeping the case files up to date.
I am excited that I have the rest of the summer to learn more about the court system and the work that goes on in this office. I was able to obtain this internship through another internship I had last fall. Through the class “Violence Hits Home: Internship in Domestic Violence” I had an internship at The Second Step, a domestic violence organization in Newton. While interning there I established a relationship with a woman who used to work at the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office, who put me in contact with some of the people from the office. I sent a cover letter and resume to them, and after a successful interview I was offered the internship with the victims advocate department. I am extremely thankful that I found this internship because I believe that I want to pursue a career in law with a focus in domestic violence.
I am also glad to be interning in Burlington because I am from Vermont and am interested in the legal processes within Vermont. Certain states might have different laws and programs for the victims, but already I have learned that Vermont has a victims compensation program, which does not exist in every state. Burlington, Vermont is an amazing place to spend the summer with the waterfront, ongoing jazz festival, and overall great charisma. It’s a gorgeous city and I am glad to be spending my time here in an internship that truly interests me.